Circuit's Free Shuttle Service Expands to Hollywood; Points to a Growing Transportation Trend

Circuit, formerly the Free Ride, is a free, all-electric shuttle service in South Florida.
Circuit, formerly the Free Ride, is a free, all-electric shuttle service in South Florida.
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Circuit, the free, app-enabled, all-electric shuttle service, has announced its expansion into Hollywood, the fourth city it will serve in South Florida. The shuttles are already available in populated areas of Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach, and Miami.

Founded in 2011 by Alex Esposito and James Mirras in the Hamptons, Circuit has operated in South Florida for the last eight years under the name, the Free Ride. Hollywood's partnership with the free shuttle company is part of a growing trend. Transit agencies in the state have made efforts to alleviate congestion on South Florida roads by partnering with shuttles, rideshares, and electric scooter companies to provide cheap transportation options that won’t upend traditional public transit systems.

Last year, the City of Fort Lauderdale passed an ordinance approving the dockless bike sharing company Lime to dispatch 500 electric scooters throughout the city. Citizens' reactions have been mixed, as the scooters are often left strewn about around the city, creating what some consider to be unsafe conditions on the street.

Circuit shuttles offer an alternative to the controversial scooters and can complement or, in some cases, supplement existing transit options. Hollywood's Community Redevelopment Agency announced in April that Circuit's Sun Shuttle service will replace its Hollywood Trolley System, which will cease operations on June 30.

“We try to target local issues and tailor the service to create a solution that caters to the needs in the area,” Circuit cofounder Alex Esposito says. “...Buses and trains are great in moving people in and out of downtown areas, but not as good [at] moving people around downtown areas."

Circuit is able to provide its free service through sponsorships from advertisers and funding from municipalities. The company says about 50 percent of its funding comes from city contracts, with the other half coming from private contracts with brands paying to advertise on the six-person shuttles which can be seen traveling along Hollywood's beach, the Federal Highway business district, and downtown. The Sun Sentinel reports that Hollywood’s contract with Circuit allows the city to spend up to $884,351 annually for the service.

Rideshare services like Uber and Lyft have revolutionized consumers' expectations and the demand of immediacy has made the act of walking and waiting for a bus unappealing, Esposito says. Circuit’s aim isn’t to eliminate the current infrastructure, but rather to help alleviate the congestion in population hubs by removing individual drivers off the road.

While Circuit formed in the age of Uber and Lyft, the shuttle service differentiates itself as a micro-transit service that navigates in a one-to-three mile radius; ideal for senior residents getting to the grocery store or commuters getting to and from parking or public transit. Unlike rideshares, which flood the streets with multiple drivers to pick up riders, Circuit deploys only a couple of shuttles at a time to pick up riders along its route. This sustains existing paid alternatives — such as taxi drivers — in a market that has been infiltrated by competing rideshares.

"I remember initially starting in 2011, and the taxi drivers were not pleased to see us," Circuit partner Jason Bagley says. "They quickly realized that we were taking the short rides that they were frequently turning down. They wanted to go to the airport, and we were taking people from the W in Fort Lauderdale to Las Olas, which is a mile-and-a-half ride. So it was quickly understood that we were not competition but a complement to other services in the area."

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